Thursday, 24 November 2011


Sagittarius, my star sign. Otherwise known as the Archer, the Centaur. Illustrated as half-man, half-beast. A half-human figure. Is this why I identify with the majestic beast – the horse? Is it coincidence that I've always lived near a racecourse? That I would be held spellbound by stories of that mythical creature, the Unicorn? The flash of white, their horn an omen for good luck. The clip-clop of hooves on ground is a magical sound, which a motorcar, or the banging of coconut shells just can't reproduce.

How I wish I had lived in times when we relied on the horse as transport. Riders conveying urgent messages to country households. A carriage to a ball. Horse and cart delivering essentials before the van and bicycle. I remember my first horse bought for me by my Uncle. A hobby horse – a horse on wheels. A furry head, a broomstick for a body. A female Robin Hood riding through the glen. After this I progressed to lessons on a Shetland pony. Lucy was housed in stables near my primary school. I'd be led up and down, practice taking the reins and balancing. Down on the coast, Marcus was my dappled white steed. Strong, courageous, and gentle. Together we held no fear. How I loved him. My parents still have his horseshoe nailed to the mantle piece.

Horses are associated with noble gentry. These horses were never owned by me. I was just lucky enough to have the opportunity to clamber up, take lessons and pretend. Horses have done a lot for us. Man supported by this beast. In daily life, work and warfare. Proverbs and descriptive terms reminiscence of these times. As strong as a horse. You may lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. In other words, people like horses will only do what they have a mind to do. Even women have been described as thoroughbreds. Coming from a pedigree line. Marriage material. Good breeding guaranteed.

If horses are seen as regal, saddled to nostalgia and romance, why are they subjected to abuse? To slaughter? Every year around 80,000 horses are packed into trucks and transported across Europe to be slaughtered. This figure doesn't even take into account the other forms of neglect. If I were a witch, I'd make a wish, as one 18th century author said, "that every person who strikes or otherwise hurts a horse unnecessarily shall feel the pain intended - and the horse not feel it!" Horses, like people have laboured for us. To expect to be fed, watered and sheltered is equitable. Thoroughbred care which every being is entitled.